Monday, September 2, 2013

Starting Fresh

In just 3 days we will celebrate the start of a New Year with Rosh Hashana and the 1st of Tishrei, 5774. In the last few weeks and months I have been yearning to rekindle the desire to spend more time learning about the Hebrew roots of my faith, and what better way to start than through a New year's resolution to do so. This afternoon I came across a Torah Study that was most interesting and I wanted to save for future reference but was wondering where would be a 'safe place' that I could log this reference so it wouldn't lost in the clutter pile of digital safe places that I have setup over the years. Maybe someplace like a digital diary or journal would be nice so that as additional thoughts came out during the next year I could refer back chronologically. Plus writing things down tend to help things stick in the brain a little better. How about my blog? It is chronological and is so out of date I can't imagine anyone reads it anymore, so it is probably like a private diary, but even if someone does decide to read what I've written, its not like a secret or anything, and even better it promotes God and allows me to talk about my faith to the world. or at least whoever is listening. So...the interesting article I read today came through my weekly e-mail from and talks about why the common English words of repentence, prayer, and charity that are typically promoted as where we should focus ourselves during the ten days of Teshuvah are not the best translations from the Hebrew words teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah. Rather the article sums up these words as: By returning to one's innermost self (teshuvah), by attaching oneself to G-d (tefillah) and by distributing one's possessions with righteousness (tzedakah), one turns the promise of Rosh Hashanah into the abundant fulfillment of Yom Kippur: A year of sweetness and plenty. Here is a link to the article itself. Torah Studies:The Ten Days of Teshuvah

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spreading Manure in Town

Thanks to a couple good friends who encouraged me to update this blog space. Since the last blog update over a year ago (where does the time go?), much has happened. Most importantly, we don't live on the farm anymore that I had been writing about. We are back in suburbia again so that our son could attend the public school system. But that doesn't mean we can't still spread manure, both literally and figuratively. You might be able to take the girl out of the country, but can't take the country out of the girl. This spring we brought the tiller down to the backyard of our suburban home and created three raised beds so that my wife could bring her gardening touch to town. The raised bed configuration that worked so well up on the farm was re-created, but on a smaller scale, in our backyard. Instead of composted mule manure to raise the beds and enrich the soil, we opted for 60 bags of composted manure from Lowe's. 60 bags is still 1.2 tons, and that equates to a third of a ton of soil enrichment per bed. That is also a lot of lifting from the pallet to the garden. Here are some pictures that I took during the bed construction.

Back in the fall, I had a done a rough till to layout two beds, but today I wanted to raise those two as well as till and raise a third bed. Here are some of the tools that I used. One BCS walk behind tractor using the rototiller attachment, One Wheelbarrow, a shovel, a tire pump to pump up the wheelbarrow tire, and a pallet of manure.

Raising beds is a fairly simple process, it just takes a little work. The idea is to dig a trench in your bed, fill it with soil enrichment such as manure, and then dig the next trench right next to the last one and cover up the manure in the previous trench. Because more matter is being added to the soil, it only has one way to go and that is up. Here I have worked my way down the bed from the left end and have dug my next trench:

Then I place a bag of manure in the trench I just dug:

Rip open the bag with a sharp utility knife to expose the rich contents:

Carefully dump the bags contents into the trench and spread evenly along the bottom:

Dig the next trench right next to the one in which I just put the manure and use the dirt that I am digging up to fill the previous trench. Each trench is about a foot wide and each bed is about 5 feet wide, so each trench is 1 by 5 feet. The beds are about 20 feet long so about 60 trenches were dug in total.

This profile picture of the raised bed tries to show how much we were able to raise the bed from ground level by using this trench method.

Shiloh enjoyed watching the show while performing the noble task of guarding the pallet from manure looters.

Here is a shot looking down from deck showing the final product. I will till them again in early May to really mix up the composted manure with the existing soil. That final till will also make for finer soil particles in preparation for planting.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sign of Spring

Just four days ago we saw over nine inches of snowfall. The next two mornings following that we exprienced low temperatures in the single digits. However by today the high is forecast to be in the sixties, and we can expect seventies by tomorrow. Of course these warm temperatures are causing the snow accumulation from earlier in the week to melt away pretty quick. As one of snowbanks near the house retreated it revealed a sign of spring that had been lurking underneath.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Here is an interesting contrast. 'Sunrise on the Farm' from July and then this morning. I found the difference in sun angle to be quite noticeable.

Yesterday's post was created about 2 hours into the snowstorm. It kept snowing until sometime into the wee hours of this morning. By last evening the wind picked up and it is still blowing pretty good. Therefore we had quite a bit of drifting so it is a little difficult to tell just how much snow we received. I found a spot that seemed pretty sheltered and measured 9.5 inches. That is about what the final forecasts for our area thought we might get, so that is probably a pretty close estimate.

In some places near the house and cars, the drifts piled up to a foot and a half or more.

Below are several more pictures from this morning.

Looking North up the highway this morning

Looking South

Even when there is just a dusting of snow, the chickens don't like to walk in it. So this morning, they were really not interested in coming out. Today is the first time in my life that I have had to shovel out a path in the snow for chickens before I shoveled my own sidewalk. I shoveled out a path for them to get from their roost house to the nest house and from the roost house to the feeder stand. I think once they get hungry enough, they will venture out.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snow on the Farm

It is hard to believe my last post was all the way back in July. The time sure has flown by since then. In that last post I wrote about unusual weather that we were experiencing that day. Today's post will also describe some unusual weather, at least for this particular winter.

Snow is not an unusual occurence in Southwest Virginia during the winter, but it has been this year. So far this winter we have had very few measurable snowfalls, and I don't think any have amounted to more than an inch. Most have been dustings of snow, sleet, or the occasional bout of freezing rain.

So here it is March 1st, the first day of meteorological Spring, and we are finally receiving our first good snow for the season. It started snowing about 1:30 this afternoon and is projected to keep snowing until tomorrow morning. Here are a few pictures from the first couple hours of this event.

We live right along a major US Highway and the state transportation department does a very good job of keeping it maintained in wintry conditions. However today's snowfall was accumulating so rapidly that the plows were having a difficult time keeping pace. Here is a shot looking north up the highway about 15 minutes after the plow had come through.

Looking south

The snow is accumulating on the cars, which were clear two hours ago.

The traffic is crawling by right now

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sunrise over the Farm

When I went out this morning to take care of animals, it was 52 degrees which is a real treat for the middle of July. Then I was treated to a postcard sunrise scene with the sunlight diffusing through the morning fog broken only by the symmetrical shadows cast by the trees. I don't know that the camera can quite capture the imagery impressed upon my senses, but it is not too far off. Thanks be to God for His amazing creation and continual reminders of who is really in control.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Garden Growth

Even though it has been a month since the last post, we have not been idle in our projects here on the farm. I will try to make a few posts over the next week or so to try catching up on reporting the progress on some of the activities around here.

Over the last several days, we have been enjoying meals comprised mainly of green vegetables grown right here on the farm. My wife has been diligently attending to the needs of the garden and the results are nothing short of spectacular. She spends most of her free evening time almost every day after work weeding, watering, and picking the fruits from her labors. Fortunately for the rest of us in the family, our taste buds, stomachs, and overall health benefit from her efforts as well.

Here is a picture from April 17 showing the recently expanded garden area:

By May 22, some of the early season vegetables were making good progress, but the warm season plants were just getting started:

Here it is June 28, and the green coloration in the garden plots far outweigh the brown colors that dominated the earlier pictures:

Here are some more before and after pictures to demonstrate how the warm weather and lots of TLC and hard work can produce some amazing growth in these plants. On May 22, here are the plots where the tomatoes, squash, and peppers were planted:

Just over a month later, here are pictures of the tomatoes, squash, and peppers. We have enjoyed zucchini and yellow pear squash in our meals the last several days.

The tomato plants are loaded with small green fruits and lots of blooms. They should be ripe for picking within a week or so.

The pepper plants still have some growing to do, but they are showing blooms already. Peppers really thrive in the hot weather which is what we experience during the months of July and August that are about to commence.

Last month we built a trellis structure using t-posts and twine for the snow peas to climb. In this picture you can also see the broccoli and spinach plants in the foreground. The spinach has run its course. The fresh spinach was as sweet as could be. However during an early June heat wave, the plants went to seed, so we are done with spinach until fall when another batch will be planted. The last two weeks have seen the broccoli plants producing big, beautiful heads that are very tender when steamed. This is another plant that we will grow another batch when the cooler weather returns this fall.

As you can see from the following picture, the snow peas knew what to do with the trellis and are climbing quite nicely. We have enjoyed fresh snow peas and sugar snap beans the last several nights with our dinner.

Also in the garden, we are growing artichokes:

...and asparagus. The asparagus takes two years to reach maturity. So this year the plants will develop, we will mulch them good over the winter, and then should receive fruits from the plants by next spring.

The leaf lettuce that we grow is a variety that continues to grow back as it is cut. So we are able to enjoy salads and lettuce for our sandwiches regularly. The plants will go to seed when the hot weather sets in next month.

The potatoes are very close to being ready for digging up. We had potatoes last year as well and were amazed at how much better they tasted than store bought. Who could have imagined that potatoes would have a taste difference? Based on that experience, we planted double the amount of potato plants this year. Once this crop is brought in, we will leave the ground until fall and plant another batch. Potatoes like the cooler weather, so they do not do well during the mid-summer heat of July and August. Just to the right of the potatoes are our home grown onions. We are just starting to lift them and they are wonderfully tasty!

Finally, what would a garden be without flowers? We have several varieties growing with the objective to grow varieties that will attract beneficial birds and bugs that will eat the harmful critters hanging out in the garden, but not be interested in the veggies themselves.